Update July 18, 11:35 am ET: Blue Origin launched another successful test today, landing both the New Shepard rocket and the capsule after the flight. The company fired the emergency engine of the capsule after dislodging itself from the rocket and pushed the spacecraft to a peak of about 74 miles – a new record for Blue Origin. The burning also meant that the capsule could withstand up to 10 G during the test, but Ariane Cornell of Blue Origin said, "That's fine with what people can take, especially for such a short jump in time."
This morning, Jeff Bezos' space company Blue Origin will try the ninth test flight of its sub-orbital missile the New Shepard, a reusable vehicle that will bring tourists to the edge of space and back should bring. And for this start, the company is again testing the escape engine of the vehicle. This is the system that could help save the lives of future passengers if something goes awry during the ascent through the Earth's atmosphere.
Like most vertical rockets, the New Shepard is also constructed to be used by a launchpad at Blue Origins facilities in West Texas. On top of the vehicle is a capsule for crew members, which carries the rocket during the flight in the sky. Once the New Shepard reaches a height of about 62 miles – which is often considered the edge of space – capsule and rocket separate. If passengers were on board, they would experience weightlessness for a few minutes. Then both the capsule and the rocket fall back to earth. Parachutes unfold to gently land the capsule as the rocket rebuilds its engine to land upright on the ground.
However, there will be a bit different operations on this test flight. Blue Origin will light the escape engine on the crew capsule. It's a small engine located on the bottom of the capsule that can quickly push the spacecraft up and away from the rocket boost if an emergency occurs during the flight. Blue Origin has already tested this engine during a test launch in October 2016 and expects the engine to destroy the booster. When the engine fires it bumps the booster with 70,000 pounds of thrust and powerful exhaust. And yet, the booster survived the test and landed on the bottom of the Texas desert.
This time, Blue Origin plans to fire the engine at a higher altitude than last time, "pushing the rocket to its limits," the company said. However, it is unclear how high the ignition will be and whether the booster survives the test.
With the exception of Blue Origins test dummy, which the company called Mannequin Skywalker, no passengers will fly on this trip. Mannequin will drive in the crew capsule along with numerous scientific experiments from NASA, commercial companies and universities. The Santa Fe company Solstar, who flew with Blue Origin on their last take-off, will re-test their Wi-Fi access during the flight. NASA will have a payload that is designed to measure the conditions in the capsule while driving, e.g. As temperature, pressure and acoustics. There are even a number of payloads that are manufactured by Blue Origins employees as part of the company's "Fly My Stuff" program.
The rocket launched today is New Shepard's third vehicle, that the company has ever flown. The first flew in April 2015 in a great height, but the booster could not land after the flight on Earth. The second iteration of the vehicle, however, was much more successful. Blue Origin launched and landed the rocket and booster a total of five times before hiring the system. This third New Shepard has already made two takeoffs and landings, and has some improvements over its predecessors. For example, this one actually has windows in the crew capsule; the second vehicle had painted his windows.
Blue Origin builds more vehicles to carry passengers, though there is no set date for the first manned flights. Rob Meyerson, the company's president, estimates that the first test passengers could fly this year, while commercial flights could start in 2019. Blue Origin plans to sell tickets again next year. A report from Reuters said that these tickets would cost at least $ 200,000, although Blue Origin claims that nothing has yet been decided. "We have not set ticket prices and have not engaged in serious discussions on this topic within Blue," the company said in a statement after GeekWire .
Today's test launch is scheduled for today 11 am ET and Blue Origins livestream will start about 20 minutes before the start. Then take a look at this live test live.